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West Hartford neighbors campaigning for safer North Main Street

WEST HARTFORD – If you drive around North Main Street you may notice signs pushing to make the road more safe.

West Hartford community members are advocating “For a Safer North Main Street,” which is what the signs read.

“It’s a four lane highway and people use it that way,” Neighbor Maryellen Thibodeau said. “It’s a dangerous road.”

Thibodeau is one of many community members trying to rev up a conversation, which stalled last summer. In 2016, a study was released from the Capitol Region Council of Governments which looked into safety on North Main Street.

The study was a six month process which began in Summer of 2015 and was completed in March of 2016. It was funded by a state grant acquired by Senator Beth Bye.

“There’s about 90 car crashes a year which is about almost three times higher than similar four lane roads in Connecticut,” Thibodeau said referring to results from the study. “We don’t think this is a safe street and we think there’s ample evidence of that with the high crash rate.”

The study also found that the nearly two mile stretch of road in question, from Bishop’s Corner to West Hartford Center, generates anywhere from 17,600 to 25,300 vehicles a day.

The report suggests a road diet for North Main Street, reducing the four lanes to three, one lane in each direction and a center turn lane.

“What this group is advocating for is re-striping the road,” she said.

The goal is safety by slowing cars down, Thibodeau said, and making the road more pedestrian friendly by creating more space between pedestrians and drivers.

“Who would put a four lane road, 10 feet wide each lane, through a residential neighborhood today?” her husband Rick said. “You just wouldn’t.”

Thibodeau said you get a different perspective of the dangers pedestrians face on North Main Street sidewalks, when you actually walk the roads. She said several town council members have experienced the walk with community members and the new Town Manager plans to do the same next week.

“We hope there will be some new thinking about this and some new understanding that it really enhances the quality of life in West Hartford,” she said. “The center is booming and it’s a magnet and if we can get more people there on their feet, that will even make it better.”

Town Manager Matthew Hart said there are no immediate plans to conduct a road diet although the town council will likely discuss the issue as part of next year’s budget and capital plan.

The town said a priority project is rehabbing the bridge on North Main Street, between Wynwood Road and Brookside Boulevard. The town is hoping to begin the project during Spring 2018. During this time, lanes in the area would be reduced which the town’s engineer said could serve as a test run of the impact of a road diet.

You can see the Road Diet and Safety study here.